Looking through all of the pre-season projections it appears that the Toronto Blue Jays are heading for a good season at the plate. How do the projections hold up when compared to last season bottom basement production at the dish though?
I wanted to take a closer look at this season’s offensive projections according to FanGraphs.com for the Toronto Blue Jays. I based all of the data and math off of the Depth Chart projections on FanGraphs. This projection line takes two of their most popular projection lines (ZiPS & Steamer) together into one line projection for players. I exported the data to a spreadsheet where I could get the team total projections. In this research, I was able to see that The Blue Jays brass may be on to something with these parts they have added to the roster over the offseason.
First things first we need to point out what they believe to be the core lineup for the 2018 campaign. The projected lineup has Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, and Randal Grichuk appearing in over 140 games each. This alone would be a welcome sign for most Jays fans and a great base to a lineup day in and day out. Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Devon Travis, Curtis Granderson, and Steve Pearce are also on the Depth Chart projections with 90 plus games. I would be pretty skeptical of a couple of those names due to the previous history but lets run with these projections as our baseline data. The remainder of the roster would be filled with Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz, Teoscar Hernandez, and Luke Maile with 30 or 40 games each.
Just to put all of that into perspective Justin Smoak, Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Kendrys Morales, and Ryan Goins were the only Jays to break 140 games this past season. They were then followed by Ezequiel Carrera, Darwin Barney, Josh Donaldson, Steve Pearce, and Russell Martin that broke 90 games. I think it is safe to say the floor has been elevated from last season to the projections of this season.
Now let us geek out and really dive into the numbers. The Blue Jays only had four hitters with a WAR above 1.0 in 2017. Those players were Donaldson, Smoak, Pillar, and Martin. Looking at the projections for 2018 there are seven. They think the same four hitters will produce better WARs for this season but are joined by Tulo, Grichuk, and Devon Travis. More players contributing on a higher level automatically translates to better offense.
In case you missed it last season the Blue Jays were in the bottom of the offensive rankings in nearly every category. In fact, they were actually below the Major League average in every measure that matters except home runs in which they finished 10th. So when the Jays did not mash at the plate they did not win ball games is the best way to interpret that information.
Onto the projections now that we have set the bar as low as it can go. The Blue Jays as a team right now are projected to have an increase in all of the categories across the board as they replaced the Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney’s of the world that filled the roster last season. The new look has the Jays above last season league average in Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, Runs, and RBI’s. They also are slated to be at the batting average normal of .255 as a team.
The homers should come as no surprise playing in the American League East’s hitters paradise. The Jays are still projected to build on their 2017 home run total with an entire season of rain with Josh Donalson leading the charge. Last seasons total of 222 is expected to have 23 more long balls tallied in 2018. More doubles are also expected to hit the carpet in what would be a 1,425 hits season for the Blue Jays. That total includes 309 doubles as a more athletic approach continues to gain momentum in Toronto. That is 105 more hits and 40 more doubles to add to a potent offense.
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All these homers and hits are great and wonderful but do they translate into runs is the big question many of you may have now. I am happy to tell you the simple answer is yes! Last season the Blue Jays scored the fifth worst run total in Major League Baseball with 693 total runs scored. If the projections prove to be anywhere near relevant the birds’ attack will plate 774 run which puts them on par with teams that made the playoffs this past year. Last season that was on a level with the Diamondbacks, Twins, Indians, and Cubs.
Now let us take this data dump and put it into context. Last season the Jays offense was stuck in neutral all year and lacked the punch to get their base runners in. According to FanGraphs, the Blue Jays are going to make the playoffs with 85 wins this upcoming season. Last year the teams that scored around 774 runs had an average of 93 wins. When taking a look at the Diamondbacks, Twins, Indians, and Cubs the Twins were the only team with 85 wins. Their issue was pitching consistency. If you look at the Blue Jays roster as a whole many would put us in conversation with the Indians or D-Back in that conversation. The question then becomes is a 774 run offense with a great pitching staff enough to run further than the 85 wins that are projected for the Blue Jays?
No matter what the argument is the Toronto Blue Jays have found ways to improve their offense without the giant free agent splash. The team is better and is going to be an angry bird to tame this season.